Back in 2015, a South Korean label for educational tools and media uploaded a video on YouTube for an easily memorable children’s participatory song, based on what they had termed as a “traditional sing-along chant”. The English-language song was about a family of sharks and featured children dancing along while imitating shark movements with their arms. Nobody could have known how big of an impact this one video would have on social media in the following years. “Baby Shark”, the video done by YouTube’s PinkFong channel for the company SmartStudy, became a meme. Now it is on the Billboard chart.
The New York Times has it that the “Baby Shark” song as interpreted by PinkFong of SmartStudy in South Korea has made it into the Billboard Hot 100 Chart at the impressively high debut rank of No. 32. The idea that a children’s song could find itself in the company of some of the best musical artists in the world just boggles the mind at the incredulity of it. Then again, some less charitable opinions of the Billboard chart is that it only measures quantity and not quality. The 2.1 billion views of “Baby Shark” on YouTube is hype enough.
As already stated, the lyrics of the song are pretty simple. It starts with a mention of the eponymous Baby Shark followed by the delightful vocalization “doo doo-doo-doo doo-doo” then proceeding to the other members of the family: parents and grandparents. Once all members have been sung about, it next describes the shark family hunting and the prey “running away”. Most listeners of “Baby Shark” may not have realized that the song was actually something of a popular tune for children in summer camp as far back as the 1950s.
The contemporary “Baby Shark” wave started off in Indonesia, spreading across the Asia-Pacific region and ultimately finding its way to the US, where the song’s roots ostensibly are. Its reputation as a meme reached its peak with the beginning of the “Baby Shark” challenge which got people posting videos of themselves singing and dancing to the tune; among the luminaries who participated in the craze were TV talk show hosts Ellen DeGeneres and James Corden. According to SmartStudy, the widespread popularity of “Baby Shark” in many countries around the world has already led to at least 11 language translations. Perhaps its Billboard Hot 100 chart listing actually is well deserved.
Image from NBC New York